Saturday, December 22, 2007

Leave sledders alone!

Helmets for sledders? Really?

Those figures, coupled with a new study that reports sleds reach average speeds of 19 miles per hour, have some health officials wondering how far to push the helmet issue.

"The challenge that we face is that it's not the norm - nor is it likely to ever be the norm - for kids to wear helmets while sledding," said Bridget Clementi, injury and prevention manager at Children's Hospital and Health System. Clementi said the Injury Free Coalition for Kids recently compared the average speed of a sled at 19 mph with the average speed of a kid on a bike, which is 10 to 15 mph.

Many parents have made it a habit to make kids wear helmets on their bikes, Clementi said.

"We don't want to kill the fun, but we are starting to look at reaching out to parents on sledding safety," Clementi said.

Clementi said parents should be aware of where their children are sledding and be around to supervise if necessary. She said children should slide feet first and parents who ride with small children probably should practice bailing out so the child knows what to do in case of an emergency.

As a voluntary measure, I'm fine with it. It may even be a good idea in an overly protective sort of way. But anytime helmets start getting brought up for anything, it isn't long before do gooders try to mandate them. It does concern me, though. As we form this bigger and bigger bubbles around kids, we may protect the few from severe injury or even death, but for a larger number we are preventing them from learning a good, if painful, lesson about not doing stupid things and how to be careful when doing risky things.

Plus, I have to add in an old fart's "back in my day." Back in my day we played a game that was kind of like football. We drew a line in the snow. One of us would sled down the hill and another would stand in front of the line. If the sledder went over the line, he won. If the defender prevented it, he won. And if the defender knocked the sledder off his disk, there was bragging rights. Talk about a good way for a boy to toughen his hide while experiencing his first half dozen concussions...

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